Richard Reeves

Whaddya Expect? The Yankees Are From New York

NEW YORK -- Being from New York does not mean you are a Yankee fan. I have hated them since I was 11 years old when our paths first crossed in the 1947 World Series. My father let my brother, a 9-year-old Yankee fan, and me stay home on Oct. 6 to listen on our family's little radio to the seventh game of that series between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I tried to kill him -- my brother, that is -- after Bruce Edwards, the Dodgers' catcher, grounded into a game- and series-ending double play.

The Yankees won that seventh game by a score of 5-to-2. Eddie Miksis was the Dodger runner on first when Edwards came up. I can remember that vividly, though 99 percent of what I learned in college is lost, and I forget where I parked the car last night. We lived on the fifth floor of 201 Summit Ave. in Jersey City at the time. During the broadcasts of night games by Red Barber and Connie Desmond, I would stand on the headboard of our bunk bed and hang my head out the window into the airshaft and listen to the sound of the games drifting up from a window three floors below. If he was mad at me, my brother -- now the athletic director of Columbia University -- would squeal to our father.

It was an amazing year. Jackie Robinson came up as a Dodger, the first Negro in the Major Leagues, though I don't remember kids my age talking about it all that much. In a place like Jersey City, where I grew up thinking America was an Italian country governed by the Irish, there were lots of black kids in our schools and our games already. The Yankees had Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto. Their catcher was a rookie named Yogi Berra. We had Robinson, Dixie Walker -- a racist, it turned out -- Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo, Ralph Branca, Eddie Stanky and Pete Reiser.

It was an amazing series. Floyd "Bill" Bevens of the Yankees was pitching what would have been the first World Series no-hitter when, with two outs in the ninth inning, Harry "Cookie" Lavagetto banged a double into the right-field corner of Ebbets Field to win the game for the Dodgers. DiMaggio was probably the best player on the field, but as far as I was concerned the most beautiful thing he ever did was kick the dirt near second base in the sixth game when the Dodgers' Al Gionfriddo made one of the greatest catches in baseball history, robbing the Yankee Clipper of a home run that would have turned around a game the Dodgers won 8-to-6.

Odd. Bevens, Lavagetto and Gionfriddo never played another Major League game after that series. The Yankees beat us again in 1949, 1952 and 1953 before the Dodgers won their first series in 1955, when Johnny Podres won two games. Then in 1957, the O'Malley family took the Dodgers to Los Angeles. Screw 'em!

I became a Mets fan and was at Shea Stadium when they won the World Series in 1969, one of the great upsets of all time. I was also, under false pretenses, at Joe DiMaggio's funeral service at St. Patrick's Cathedral. What I was thinking that day was certainly a sacrilege. I was in the pew behind Rizzuto and Berra with my friend Ken Auletta. We were stunned at how small the two old Yankees were. "How did those little bastards beat us year after year?" I said, low enough to get away with it.

Now, the damn Yankees are keeping me up all night. They're playing like the old Dodgers, scraping out one amazing win after another. Last Wednesday and Thursday nights had to be two of the most amazing games of all time. "I'm too old for this," I kept thinking as the games dragged past midnight -- what I'm too old for are all those Fox promos for its own shows -- and on to Yankee victories that you knew were going to happen. You knew that it did not matter what the Arizona Diamondbacks did; they were going to lose.

Crawling into bed early on Friday morning, I told my wife the Yanks had done it again, tied the game with two outs in the ninth inning, then won in extra innings. "So," she mumbled. "The other guys come from nowhere. Who calls a team the Razorbacks?"

Right. The Yankees come from somewhere. New York.

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